Michel Erpelding awarded special mention by France’s National Committee for the Remembrance and History of Slavery

3 June 2019

On 23 May 2019, as part of the national day of remembrance of the victims of colonial slavery, Annick Girardin, Minister of Overseas France, awarded a special mention of the Comité National pour la Mémoire et l'Histoire de l'Esclavage (CNMHE) to Michel Erpelding, Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law, for the published version of his doctoral thesis.

Established by decree on 6 May 2009 and chaired since 2016 by Frédéric Régent, the CNMHE comprises 12 experts on slavery, most of whom are historians. The CNMHE advises the French government on all matters relating to the remembrance and history of slavery, the slave trade, and their respective abolition. Each year, it awards a prize to a previously unpublished dissertation addressing one of these topics. On occasion, it also awards a special mention to a work that it deems of particular interest.

Michel Erpelding's thesis, entitled "The International Anti-Slavery Law of 'Civilized Nations' (1815-1945)", provides a comprehensive account of the international legal rules and techniques used to combat slavery and slavery-related practices prior to the emergence of international human rights law. The study is based on a systematic survey of relevant State practice, including more than 450 slavery-related treaties and numerous examples of domestic and colonial legislation. It addresses the ultimately unsuccessful attempts of Western nations to establish a strict distinction in international law between the 'barbaric' practice of slavery and the 'civilizing' instrument of forced labour.

Prepared at Sorbonne Law School (University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) under the supervision of Professor Emmanuelle Tourme Jouannet and defended on 22 March 2017, Michel Erpelding's thesis was published in December 2017 after winning Varenne University Institute's Dissertation prize in the field of human rights. In May and June 2018, it was successively awarded the Jacques Mourgeon Prize of the Société française pour le droit international (SFDI) and the International Law Dissertation Prize of the Sorbonne Doctoral Law School.